In our series of answers to tough interview questions, “Tell me about a specific situation where you failed” is the tough interview question that we are tackling today. In our series, we delve into what the interviewer is trying to uncover. For today’s question, the interviewer is trying to determine what lesson you learned from a mistake. It is a given that people make mistakes, and that adversity is the best teacher. Try to emphasize that, along with acknowledging openly that you made a mistake, that you can articulate what you learned from it. The interviewer wants to know that you already made that mistake, learned from it, and that it won’t happen again on their payroll.
Answer to tough interview question 5, “Tell me about a specific situation where you failed.”
“As a senior finance executive, I have been involved with 12 mergers and acquisitions, in three Fortune 500 companies, over a period of 25 years. About 15 years ago, a key member of our integration team became critically ill and was off work for most of the integration, another accepted another position midway through the process. We fell behind and were pressured to meet the original timeline despite having two fewer persons. To save time, I decided to eliminate steps in the integration process, which ended up adding an additional $2 million to the cost. We completed the process on time, but exceeded the budget. Immediately after that experience, I created a checklist, which outlines all the critical steps necessary to integrate all systems. Since then, whenever I am asked to accelerate the integration process, if it will jeopardize the organization, I build a case for why we shouldn’t and that has worked so far.”
In this response you are not only demonstrating how you failed, but you are also demonstrating that a positive came out of a negative. And the interviewer can clearly see the lessons that you have learned from the failure. In addition, your response to interview questions needs to be specific and succinct, as well as truthful and positive. Candidates who relate a particular situation to the interviewer for each question will be far more effective and successful than those who respond in general terms. The best way to answer tough interview questions is to briefly describe the situation and be specific about the action you took.
The response offered to the fifth tough interview question, “Tell me about a specific situation where you failed” is only a guide, and therefore it is the job candidate’s responsibility to tweak the advice offered.
This article is contributed by Right Management, www.rightmanagement.sg, the global career experts within the ManpowerGroup.